Guest poster Nick Brown grew up in Grand Rapids, Minn. "I'm a life-long Twins fan and am not afraid to admit that it takes up a large portion of my free time," he says.
The 2010 Twins season has gotten off to a great start, this much we can all agree on. There have been many encouraging signs from an improved roster and there is little to complain about for the first time in a while here in Twins Territory. The usual suspects are producing, and the newbies are contributing as well.
Top to bottom, this lineup looks as good as any Twins team in recent memory.
So let's just imagine for the sake of argument that the wheels fall off and that they struggle to stay atop of the Central come summer. Whether it's injuries or lack of production from key contributors, the good news is that there is help close by and chips to bargain with. Here's a look at what and who could help our Twins if trouble comes knocking.
The Twins have always prided themselves on building from the minors up, leaving a few internal options in the event that the dreaded injury bug bites. Alexi Casilla has been an inconsistent cog in the middle infield for the past three years. He excited us with a strong stretch in 2008, but ultimately lost the second base job more than once in that same three year stretch. He could not only fill in temporarily but also provide a versatile secondary bargaining chip in a trade. Danny Valencia could show he's ready for the third base job by mid-season but is off to a slow start in Rochester. Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe could also be stopgaps in the middle spots if either Hudson or Hardy go down. Losing either of the starting middle infielders would be one of the tougher blows to recover from but not impossible. Let's just say that the Twins have options at catcher in AAA and leave it at that, no need to temp the gods or fate or even mention anything regarding time missed for #7.
Having four quality Outfielders for three spots is an area of strength for the Twins (yes, I called Delmon Young quality). Jason Kubel has excelled the past two years as the primary DH and backup left or right fielder to help give the starters a day off. Where the Twins are particularly thin is CF, if Denard Span goes down, there is little internally that can be done to replace him, even at AAA. As much as I love Jacque Jones, he's not a big league player or even back up at this stage in his career. However, if either Young or Cuddyer goes down, Kubel could fill in and move veteran slugger Jim Thome to the primary DH role. If the Twins brass think Delmon is worth more in a trade scenario, then they could pull the trigger on sending him for help in a pickle but he's not going to attract much in a trade unless he starts to put up big numbers. Kind of a catch-22 for Mr. Young, produce and you could be an attractive trade piece but on the flip side why would we ship him once he starts to fulfill his potential; do nothing and you'll add little to no value to the roster or the trade market.
This is the deepest pool for the Twins to dip into if they need to make some moves to fill some holes. They have a few options to come in and fill spots in the rotation in Brian Duensing, Alex Burnett, and even Glen Perkins, but could also package any one of them to help get someone to fill a need as the rotation is set for now. I doubt the Twins would consider trading Deolis Guerra, Rob Delaney, Jeff Manship, or Anthony Swarzak but stranger things have happened (see Young/Harris/Pridie for Bartlett/Garza). The bullpen is a little more complicated however. If Jon Rauch ever falls back to earth and continually struggles and the Twins find themselves looking for a closer in the trade market, most of their best options lie outside the organization despite Anthony Slama excelling in the role in the minors. Middle and long relief could come from AAA, and the Twins have a good track record of guys from within stepping into and excelling in those roles.
Overall, the outlook is good for the 2010 Minnesota Twins but in baseball as in life, you never know what will happen. The only thing you can do is prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I see good things for this team but also wouldn't be surprised if they struggle at times and need to shake it up with a mid-season trade to fill a hole due to injury or poor performance. If they can continue this pace for 162 games, I like their chances in October, especially if Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Frankie "F-Bomb" Liriano can dazzle and stay healthy.
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